Ende. Rider Muhammad Imam Arifin of KFC Cycling Team won a close sprint near the finish line of the second stage of the Tour de Flores on Saturday (15/07), becoming the first Indonesian rider to ever top a stage in the competition, a feat that slipped from his teammate Jamal Hibatullah a day earlier.
Imam completed the 142.8-kilometer Maumere-Ende route in 4 hours, 2 minutes and 18 seconds, allowing him to move up to second place in the overall standing. Now he is also the best Indonesian, Southeast Asian and Asian rider in the tour.
"This incredible, I'm very happy! This is thanks to the KFC Cycling Team's joint effort," said Imam said in a statement.
Imam, who is participating for the second time in the Tour de Flores, remained in the peloton for most of the race. With eight other racers, he launched an attack in the most difficult King of the Mountains phase, about three hours into the race.
After the climb, Imam and Nick Miller of Futuro Pro Cycling, Marcelo Felipe of 7 Eleven Cycling Team and Thomas Lebas of Kinan Cycling Team worked their way, separating from the group. They sprinted in the last few kilometers to end with a split-second finish, the closest so far in the tour.
The Saturday's race started with 79 riders, after two dropped out for breaching the first stage's time limit. Two riders resigned just before the start due to illness. The race was harder than the previous stage, consisting of four climbs and one sprint, all in blistering sun. Five riders quit the race and hopped on the broom wagon.
With the stage result, Miller took over the general classification leader's yellow jacket from Drew Morey of Terengganu Cycling Team. Keisuke Aso, who won three King of the Mountains (KOM) titles in this stage, moved up to be the first in climbing and grabbed the polka dot jersey from the previous best climber — Wu Chih Hao of Action Cycling Team.
In sprint, Choe Hyeongmin of Geumsan Insam Cello still holds the green jersey.
The third stage of the Tour de Flores will start on Sunday at 9.00 a.m. local time. Riders will cover 131.9 kilometers, with one sprint and two climbs, between Ende and Mbay.